My wife, Elaine, and I just returned from a fabulous trip to Ireland, Scotland and England with my Taylor University MBA class.  It was a “for credit” study tour, but spouses were welcomed, so we jumped at the chance to take our first trip to Europe (I guess life truly does begin after fifty).  As a class requirement, I’ll be documenting the trip in a journal over the next several weeks (not in this blog).  However, I did want to share the highlights of our last night in London and then juxtapose that lovely evening with the publisher’s rant that appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal while we were away.

Having been traveling for twelve days, we were tired and not wanting to venture far from our hotel for our last meal before heading for Heathrow in the morning.  The recommended restaurant was full, so on the way back to the hotel we stumbled into Romanos , a hole-in-the-wall Italian joint.  When I asked our server for a recommendation from the very short wine list, he said, “the cheap ones are on the top and the expensive ones are on the bottom”.  Duh!  The ladies next to us came to the rescue by attesting to the excellent quality of the house red.  As we finished our toast to a great trip, the gentleman at the table on the other side of us asked what part of the States we were from.  From there, the gods of serendipity took over and we ended our trip with a truly magical evening and some wonderful new friends –Herman and Mardie.

Roughly twenty years our senior, Herman and Mardie were as full of life as the thousands of young, overpaid members of the millennial generation jamming the famous red buses of London.  Herman is a retired music industry executive who sold his London-based business a few years back.  His close friend and former business partner, Sir George Martin, was the producer for an obscure rock band out of Liverpool –The Beatles.   With this revelation, Elaine and I silently twisted and shouted inside, but I can assure you that it was not our new friends’ close affiliation with British royalty that we found most attractive.  It was their zest for life and their obvious joy in sharing it with others that brought “good day, sunshine” to our table that evening.

When Herman learned that I was a fifty-one year old graduate student, you would have thought his only child had just received the Nobel Prize.  If he said, “good for you!” once he said it five times…each time more enthusiastically.  He assured me I was on the right track so long as I was pursuing my passions.  He said whatever money we’d need would follow, but to never do anything for the money.  And, he said to be sure to do everything I was passionate about so long as I was able.  This philosophy led Herman to become mayor of Aspen, Colorado in the early 1990’s, his one and only foray into politics.

We soon learned that in the process of living a very full life, Herman had acquired some very strong opinions about many things…opinions that I didn’t necessarily agree with.  On matters of religion and politics, we differed greatly.  He a Jew…me a Christian.  He a Democrat…me a Republican.  He a Bush basher…me a Bush supporter.  It mattered not.  Why focus upon our differences when we had so many interesting and important things in common?

I loved his thoughts on sales people and the way he corrected me when I referred to Jesus as a salesman.  “Oh no”, he said, “Jesus was the product.  Peter, Paul and Mary were the salesmen”.  Huh?  I thought they were a folk group during the heyday of Herman’s career.   Whenever he’d make one of these quips that Mardie had, no doubt, heard hundreds of times before, she’d roll her eyes, but not dismissively.  There was an eternal sparkle in Mardie’s eyes whenever she looked at Herman.  Their lifelong love for one another verily oozed from their pores.  What a wonderful inspiration they were to Elaine and me.

Our evening with Herman and Mardie stands in stark contrast to the op-ed piece appearing in the October 22-28 edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal.  In this piece, IBJ Publisher Mickey Maurer, a man I hold in very high regard, attacks the newly formed Indiana Christian Chamber of Commerce saying they are “espousing the venom of exclusivity”, while exhorting the Indianapolis business community to “spurn these enterprises and affiliate with organizations that promote good business practices without regard to religious beliefs”.  It’s clear from other statements made in the article that Mr. Maurer uncharacteristically failed to do his homework on this well-meaning, upstart organization.

I am not a member of the Indiana Christian Chamber of Commerce nor am I likely to become one.  But, I am a committed Christian business owner who fully supports the rights of other like-minded business people to participate in such an organization.  Mr. Maurer’s remarks, though poorly researched, highlight the unavoidable fact that some will see such an organization as discriminatory.  Knowing many of those involved, I know their motives to be pure and their intentions to be anything but divisive, as Mr. Maurer’s mean-spirited remarks most definitely were.  Had he sat down with the organization’s founders before attacking the keyboard, I think he would have found much less to attack them for.  It’s not too late, Mickey…I’m pretty sure that’s what my new friend, Herman, would do.